|Nedbank Challenge – first-round leaderboard|
|-8 S Garcia (Spa); -4 C Schwartzel (SA), M Korhonen (Fin), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) ; Selected -3 A Sullivan (Eng), M Wallace (Eng), L Oosthuizen (SA); -1 L Westwood (Eng), S Lowry (Ire), R Fisher (Eng), M Fitzpatrick (Eng); Level R McIlroy (NI); +1 P Harrington (Ire)|
Sergio Garcia fired an eight-under-par 64 to take a four-shot advantage after day one at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa.
The Spaniard, 38, didn’t drop a shot as he made an impressive start to his bid for a second straight win after his Valderrama Masters triumph.
Garcia is four clear of another former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel plus Mikko Korhonen and Mike Lorenzo-Vera.
Rory McIlroy dropped three late shots to finish on level par.
The Northern Ireland’s disappointing finish included a double bogey at the 17th as his faint hopes of overhauling Race to Dubai leader Francesco Molinari suffered a blow.
Eighth-placed McIlroy is almost £1.75m behind Molinari and needs to win at least one of the remaining two events to overhaul the Italian, who enjoys a lead of just under £1m from Ryder Cup partner and defending champion Tommy Fleetwood.
McIlroy, 29, was within touching distance of Garcia as a birdie on 13 moved him to three under.
However, he dropped a shot at the long 14th before worse followed on the penultimate hole as an errant drive and poor bunker shot led to his double-bogey six.
Garcia is aiming for a third victory in Sun City after previous triumphs in 2001 and 2003.
It was the Spaniard’s lowest opening round score of the season by two shots and matched the biggest first-round lead on the tour in 2018.
“I made some good putts here and there. It was one of those rounds where things happened nicely to me,” said the European Ryder Cup star.
“I played pretty smart, even though I probably wasn’t swinging unbelievably. I kept it under control and guessed some of the winds right, which is always difficult here.”
Home player Schwartzel only dropped one shot in his 68 which was matched by Frenchman Lorenzo-Vera and Finn Korhonen.
English duo Andy Sullivan and Matt Wallace are in a six-strong group on three under which includes South Africa’s 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.